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Athletes' graduation rate lags at UF

The University of Florida's graduation rate for athletes continues to hover around 35 percent, compared with 50 percent for the general student body, according to a report to be presented to the Florida Board of Regents this week. Florida graduated more football players in 1989 than in the previous two years, but its overall graduation rate for athletes, as for the student body as a whole, dipped last year.

"The University of Florida, like every place else that's serious about academics and athletics, is paying attention to graduation rates. If there ever was an era in which you could ignore academic performance, that's long gone," UF president John Lombardi said.

Florida State University, however, posted a 40.5 percent graduation rate for its student-athletes.

The report, which will be presented to regents Thursday in Boca Raton, is the third since the university governing board began requiring universities to publicly report their athletes' graduation rates. The document spans both periods of disruption in UF athletic programs resulting from violations of NCAA rules.

The report charts graduation rates for students recruited in 1982, 1983 and 1984 _ years when Charley Pell was Florida's head football coach during recruiting season. Pell resigned in 1984.

Last year, eight of 27 UF football players graduated within five years of checking in as freshmen in 1984, a rate of about 30 percent. In 1988, five of 22 football players recruited as freshmen in 1983 graduated within five years, for a 22 percent rate. In 1987, two of 26 entering as freshmen in 1982 graduated within five years, for a rate of 7 percent.

Florida State _ the other big-time sports school in the State University System _ continued to post higher graduation rates for athletes in 1989.

At FSU, 47.5 percent of all freshmen entering in 1984 graduated within five years, while 40.5 percent of athletes FSU recruited as freshmen in 1984 did.

Of the 22 football players FSU recruited in 1984, eight graduated by 1989, for a five-year rate of 36 percent. In 1988, 13 of 25 FSU football players recruited as freshmen graduated within five years, for a 52 percent rate. In 1987, 13 of 30 football players recruited as freshmen in 1982 graduated within five years, for a rate of 43 percent.

Women athletes continue to graduate at a higher rate than men, the report shows.

Over the three-year period covered by the report, 52 percent of the women athletes recruited as UF freshmen graduated within five years, compared to 27.8 percent of male athletes.

At FSU, 48.1 percent of women covered by the report graduated within five years, compared to 40.1 percent for male athletes.

For the entire State University System, the graduation rate for athletes dropped from 37.8 percent in 1987-88 to 36.6 percent in 1988-89.